Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. W. Leonard Parker of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Participants: Mr. Paul West, OWI Office at Cairo.
Mr. Herrick, OWI.
Mr. Huston, CI/L.35
Mr. Murray, PA/M.
Mr. Alling.
Mr. Merriam.
Mr. Parker.

Mr. Paul West, in Chargé of the Office of War Information organization in Cairo, who has just returned to the United States for consultation with his superiors, called to convey to the Department his impression of conditions in Egypt and other areas of the Near East.

Mr. West stated that there are two questions which people in the Near East are constantly asking: (1) what is the attitude of the United States toward Zionism, and (2) what are the post-war aims of the United States in the Near East. Mr. West said that his organization has avoided any discussion of, or propaganda activities concerning, Zionism because as far as he knew this Government has not indicated to him what its policy toward Zionism might be. Feeling on the part of the Arabs against Zionism is strong in the whole Near Eastern area, particularly Palestine, Syria and Iraq, and noticeably in Egypt. He fears that if this feeling is allowed to spread and become intensified there is grave danger that General Eisenhower’s forces may be threatened from the rear by the Arab population in North Africa.

Mr. West stated that people in the Near East are very anxious to know what policy the United States is going to pursue in the Near East after the war. The Near Eastern peoples, he declared, are sick of the British and the French and do not want them around. They realize, however, that they are going to need some help and support, but wish that such help and support should be forthcoming from a distinterested power without imperialistic ambitions. For this reason the Near Eastern peoples desire that the United States should remain as a powerful influence in the Near East after the war.

After alluding to antipathy on the part of Near Eastern peoples toward the British, Mr. West declared that there is a great deal of bad feeling between British and American military forces and that even officers are involved. There have been so many fights in Palestine between British and American personnel that members of the American [Page 558] armed forces there now go about armed to protect themselves from the British. There have been cases where American officers have been badly beaten by British military personnel and he said that on the plane on which he returned there was an American officer with his jaw fractured in three places as the result of a fight in Palestine between British and American troops. Mr. West recounted another amazing incident: quite recently an American Army Douglas DC–3 transport plane, flying in daylight on the radio beam from Khartoum to Cairo, was shot down by British Hurricane fighters and all the occupants of the American transport plane were killed. Mr. West did not know whether this was accidental or deliberate. He was somewhat at a loss to explain this hard feeling between the British and Americans but was inclined to attribute it to differences in customs and to early schoolbook training of an anti-British character of Americans in their youth.

Returning to the subject of Zionism, Mr. West stated that he expected to see the President in a few days and hoped he might have an opportunity at that time to mention to the President the situation being created in the Near East by Zionist activities. Mr. Murray suggested that it might be well also for Mr. Elmer Davis to discuss this matter with the President in order to secure a directive if possible from the President on the OWI line on Zionism. It was brought out in the conversation that the three agencies of the Government primarily concerned with the grave situation created in the Near East by Zionist activities are the State Department, the War Department and the Office of War Information. It was suggested that all three agencies might make their views known to the President. Mr. Herrick suggested that he would endeavor to see that this matter should be discussed between the War Department and the Office of War Information. Mr. Murray stated that it was expected that Mr. Welles would discuss the matter with the President shortly. Mr. Murray suggested also that it might be well for Mr. West to see Mr. Welles before Mr. Welles goes to the President. This, Mr. West said, he would be very glad to do.

  1. Liaison Branch, Division of Current Information.